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Leadership lessons from the American bald eagle

leadership lessons from the bald eagleI am continually amazed by the insightful leadership lessons that can be learned from the animal kingdom; in the past I’ve written about sea otters, goldfish, long-nosed bats, Canada geese, and penguins.  Recently, I had the opportunity to have a close-up interaction with an American bald eagle at a bird rescue sanctuary (I took this photo on the right), and not surprisingly, there were leadership lessons to be had here as well.  Here are two interesting parallels between bald eagles and exceptional leaders.

The ability to stay high AND come down low

Eagles tend to spend most of their time in elevated locations.  When they are hunting, they soar high in the sky.  When they are resting, they look for the loftiest spot they can find in trees, craggy rocks, or even rooftops.  They can stay at higher altitudes because they have excellent vision.  But that doesn’t stop them from swooping down when they need to, usually to catch prey but occasionally for other reasons.  There is a great lesson for leaders here.  Effective leaders must be able to operate at both levels too.  Leadership vision comes from being able to soar above the day-to-day of a business.  But when needed, the best leaders are just as easily able to swoop down and deal with the details.

The willingness to do what needs to be done

Bald eagles normally prey on waterfowl and small mammals like squirrels, prairie dogs, raccoons and rabbits.  But they are opportunistic predators which means that when prey is scarce (as it sometimes is in winter), they will steal from other animals, or even scavenge on carrion.  Now I’m not promoting theft as a positive leadership characteristic, but my point is that the eagles do what they need to in order to survive.  Good leaders also do whatever is necessary to thrive, particularly in times of trouble.  If that means stealing market share from competitors, so be it.  And scavenging carrion may sound disgusting, but just like the bald eagle, exceptional leaders will readily take on unpleasant tasks if it’s necessary for success.

Are there any other parallels between bald eagles and leaders?  These are two leadership lessons that immediately came to my mind, but I’d love to hear what you think.  Please share your thoughts below.


  • Bald Eagles with their keen eyesight are always aware of and looking for opportunity. When opportunity is present they swoop down to take advantage and capitalize on that opportunity. Good leaders should be the same they are always looking for opportunities and when they show up they are prepared and ready to swoop down and capitalize on those opportunities. these actions always keep them at the forefront of business and learning.


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